(TheProudRepublic.com) – In a blunt but seemingly reasonable declaration, an Alabama judge has ruled that a convicted hitman who is about to be executed through an experimental method is “not guaranteed a painless death.”
In a recent ruling, an Alabama judge decided that Kenneth Eugene Smith, a convicted hitman, would face execution through nitrogen hypoxia—a method yet to be used on a human.
Smith, now 58, received a death sentence for his role in the 1988 murder of a preacher’s wife, for which he and John Forrest Parker were paid $1,000 each.
In November 2022, an attempt to execute Smith via lethal injection failed.
His lawyers argued that repeating the execution process would amount to double jeopardy and that testing the new method on him would violate his constitutional rights.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Austin Huffaker dismissed these claims, stating that every execution method was new at some point.
“Smith is not guaranteed a painless death,” the judge declared in his 48-page ruling.
“On this record, Smith has not shown, and the court cannot conclude, the Protocol inflicts both cruel and unusual punishment, rendering it constitutionally infirm under the prevailing legal framework,” he added.
Huffaker also ruled there was no evidence that the new execution method “is substantially likely to cause Smith superadded pain short of death or a prolonged death.”
The execution procedure involves replacing breathable air with nitrogen gas through a mask, theoretically causing death without the sensation of suffocation.
Concerns were raised about Smith’s ability to pray or speak final words with the mask on and the potential exclusion of his spiritual adviser due to the risks of nitrogen exposure.
Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, Smith’s adviser, expressed his dismay at the ruling, describing it as allowing the state to suffocate its citizens.
Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas previously argued against hypoxia as an execution method, citing its untested nature and the impossibility of humane testing.
The method was chosen by several death row inmates in Alabama, including Smith, after repeated issues with lethal injections.
Smith initially agreed to nitrogen hypoxia but later objected to the state’s protocol. His lawyers suggested changes to the existing protocol or adopting Utah’s firing squad method.